Being an Audiologist with Hearing Loss – Navigating School and Clinic

audiologist with hearing loss
August 2, 2022

This week, Ashley Hughes is joined by Audrey Taylor, a clinical audiologist in Texas, to discuss her experience as a student and now as a clinician with hearing loss.

Dr. Taylor helped create and develop the Student Academy of Audiology’s resources for students with hearing loss and continues to serve as an advisor to the group. In this episode she also offers advice for colleagues and those working with people with hearing loss on how they can help support their peers who have hearing loss.

Full episode transcript

Ashley Hughes 0:10
Hi everyone. This is Ashley Hughes again with This Week in Hearing. This week, I’m really excited. We are joined by Dr. Audrey Taylor an audiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Dr. Taylor will be discussing with us how to navigate graduate school and work as an audiologist with hearing loss. So thank you, Audrey. Can I ask you to first introduce yourself to our audience?

Audrey Taylor 0:34
Thank you, Ashley for having me. So I’m Audrey Taylor. I’m an audiologist down in Texas and work out of the Texas Medical Center. I’m three years out post-grad. So I went to undergrad at Baylor University in Waco did speech back for undergrad but knew I wanted to go into audiology. And then I went to the University of Texas at Dallas, and graduated in 2019. From there, I did my externship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and got asked to stay on there. I’ve been there for over four years now.

Ashley Hughes 1:08
Awesome. And one thing that neither of us has mentioned that I just wanted to throw in real quick is that Audrey and I know each other from her work on the national SAA or student Academy of Audiology board. So we’re very excited to have another leader in our profession joining us this week.

Audrey Taylor 1:22
Thank you.

Ashley Hughes 1:24
Thank you. So Arthur, can you tell us a little bit about how you feel your hearing loss has helped you or maybe forced you to be kind of a solution seeker instead of anything else really?

Audrey Taylor 1:35
No, Absolutely. It’s a great question. So I will tell you, whenever I went to grad school, there was one girl who was a year or two older than me who had unilateral hearing loss. But it had been a little while I there had been someone who had bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. And I think, you know, during grad school, I kind of learned how to navigate, you know, certain situations and advocating for myself, and what are the things that I needed in order to do my job well, and, you know, there weren’t a lot of other students with hearing loss that I knew of in the program. And so going to the American Academy of Audiology, several years ago, there was a networking event for audiologists with hearing loss. And so I was excited to go to that and just kind of meet people there. And interestingly enough, there were about 35 of the 40 people were students. And so you know, thinking about it thinking, why don’t we have a student group within the student Academy of Audiology for students with hearing loss. And so I reached out to SAA, and just kind of presented the idea to them, they liked it and ran with it. And then I got to be one of the co founders and leaders for that student group, which is still growing today. And it’s just been so awesome to see all the resources that they’ve come up with, that are available online. They’re talking about, you know, applying for grad school, how to get established with the disability office, what are different accommodations that are out there that you can try requesting, how do you navigate doing word back and clinic, they’re just different situations. And we already kind of outlining that for students that way, they have those resources, and they’re not trying to navigate it by themselves. And so that’s something that’s been really encouraging just to see kind of that legacy left behind, and how so many other students are adding to that over the years. You know, one thing that I absolutely love about this as well is that I’ve been privileged enough to be the advisor for that group for the last year and going into a new year with him and just seeing how bright some of these students are and what they’re doing with their, you know, their lives and their careers. No, just this last year, we had some students that were going to Boston Children’s Kaiser, UNC Chapel Hill doing research. And so it’s just been so encouraging to see just coming up with one small idea and how much that can grow and continue to be a good thing for others moving forward.

Ashley Hughes 4:02
That’s awesome. And they think kind of along what you were saying, you really created a home for students with hearing loss in our professional organization. It started off as a task force as you remember when you created it, and now it’s a subcommittee. So there it really permanently influenced our national organizations. In addition to everything that you’ve outlined, that it does, I would say that it also helps that your normal hearing peers better understand your experiences and be better allies to you. And also, it’s just been amazing watching you go from the student who started this to now serving as a mentor on the SAA advisory committee and I love that you’re continuing to stay involved and influence the future of our profession.

Audrey Taylor 4:43

Ashley Hughes 4:45
can you tell us a little bit about how you feel you as a clinician with hearing loss can serve as an asset to the clinic or even the other way around when it can be more difficult.

Audrey Taylor 4:55
So being an asset in clinic it’s been interesting to see going from the student side of things to be on the professional side of things. And I’ll tell you, I have so many patients who are so thankful whenever I disclose that I have hearing loss, it’s not something that I do with every patient. But, you know, sometimes I feel like that’s something that can be encouraging for the patients. And, you know, seeing so many kids, we are the newborn hearing screening program with our hospital and more do the diagnostic ABR is after they fail their newborn hearing screenings. And, you know, sometimes during counseling, and it’s a lot to hear that your kid has hearing loss, you know, that. So many parents know, they weren’t perfect things for their child. And so being told that they have hearing loss can be sometimes hard for them to hear. And so sometimes during those conversations, I might disclose that I have to hearing loss, and it’s just like a look of relief on the parents faces. And I’ve had several of them tell me like, you know, that was so encouraging that you should, eyes, because here we are thinking, you know, this is not perfect, but they may see someone who’s our doctor in front of our eyes, who has hearing loss, and, you know, I think it just continue encouraging things, especially for those families that yes, your child has hearing loss, but that’s not the end of the world. And they might do some things differently, but they still have a full life ahead of themselves. Other situation, maybe, that’s helpful is, you know, when you have these two are candidates for amplification, they’re like, ‘Well, I’m not old enough to have hearing aids’. And then I’m, like, ‘hi, like, been wearing hearing aids for over 25 years’. And it’s like an eye opener for them. And they realize that they don’t have to be, you know, 70 or 80 to wear hearing aids and just how much, you know, hearing aids have evolved over the years. And so that’s been times that it’s been encouraging. um burdensome, per se. You know, I think just kind of figuring out how to navigate certain things, especially during CI word scoring, you know, you’ll be presenting multi talker babble in the background. And so I just learned how to kind of quickly pause the noise, that way I can hear a patient, you know, repeat what they’re saying for scoring purposes, and then just resume the noise. So I think overall, I’ve kind of found some wiggle room and kind of ways to avoid certain situations that could be difficult like having them wear like a connect clip or something, an ALD, for transcription purposes, and just being able to hear them a little bit better with that SNR ratio.

Ashley Hughes 7:25
It’s great that you’re coming up with all of these ideas for ways that you can kind of navigate the clinic and make it more friendly for individuals with hearing loss for our peers and also for your patients. Because then when they come in with questions, you might have ideas that you’ve had to implement for yourself. What do you think we as your normal hearing peers, students and audiologists alike can do to be more supportive or better allies.

Audrey Taylor 7:52
So, you know, over the years, I’ve kind of learned that being an ally, something that can be really helpful. For example, you know, I work in the medical center in Houston, we’re like one of the most diverse cities in the world and so we see so many different populations and cultures and backgrounds. And every once in a while, I’ll get a voicemail that I just, I can’t understand everything that they’re saying. And so you know, my colleague who sits next to me, she has no problem with putting into the voicemail and just kind of trying to help me navigate through the whole thing, if that’s really they have a foreign accent. So that’s something that I’d say is encouraging. You know, also, whenever we do conditioned play audiometry, you know, since we don’t have two testers, I will typically go into the booth, and then I’ll have my normal hearing peer just wear my connect clip outside the booth when they’re presenting. And then I don’t have to look at any sort of screens and be distracted, like, I can hear them inside my hearing aids just coming through and they’ll say, you know, presenting or something like that, that way I know, whenever they’re presenting certain sounds that I may not be able to hear as well. I would say those are probably the two biggest things that I’ve noticed. And just, you know, being encouraging, especially students, I would say, you know, don’t make the student with hearing loss always be the guinea pig. Or if you do get paired up with them, then, you know, don’t complain about it. I’ve heard some students have had some interesting situations where, you know, their peers complaining about like, well, you know, testing, so and so it’s going to be harder, because they have hearing loss, but you know, we got into this job for reasons. So I just say, you know, just treat them like you would anybody else and it unless they asked for certain things, but you don’t have to advocate for them, they should learn how to advocate for themselves. So

Ashley Hughes 9:37
that actually brings up a another question that I’m just kind of curious about. So let’s say I’m at a conference and I see that a speaker says and I know we’ve all heard this. I’m not going to use the mic. My voice is loud enough. Is it inappropriate for your normal hearing peers to say something knowing that others in the room are impacted or would you prefer to speak for yourself or do you think, like, what do you think is the best way to navigate that situation?

Audrey Taylor 10:03
Yeah, no, absolutely, I would definitely say, you know, hey, you know, everyone in the room would prefer for you to use the microphone. So please, please make use of it. The other thing that I do like that presenters do or this is something I learned in grad school, is repeating the question. Not everybody, even those with normal hearing can hear.

Ashley Hughes 10:21
That’s what I was gonna say I have to just terrible hearing in noise. Yeah, so yeah, I think that that’s a presentation technique. That would be great if we saw everybody adopt. And I think you’re right, that we’re starting to see more and more of that. So based on your experiences, would you encourage a patient of yours who has hearing loss if they were interested to pursue a career in audiology?

Audrey Taylor 10:42
I would, something that I’ve learned just in the last couple of years, you know, even being out of school is we have newborn hearing screenings, like we didn’t have that whenever I was born, I wouldn’t diagnose toys for my brother was worn, but, you know, pretty universally newborn hearing screening, or helping identify kids a lot sooner. And I think that one thing that I’ve told the students is our definition of students, an audiologist with Hearing Loss is going to be changing because of early intervention and early identification. And so I think that there’s going to be more and more students, with hearing loss going into the field of audiology. And I think that’s something that’s awesome. I think that’s something that audiology as a whole, is going to see more of. And I think that there’s ways that we can definitely be supportive, but also know that it’s not our place to confine those students and put them into certain definitions or certain boxes of hearing loss. I mean, it really is up to them to advocate for themselves in the ways that they should. But I think that we’re going to be seeing so many more audiologists with hearing more often, I think that’s a great thing, especially for a profession, and especially for our patients as well.

Ashley Hughes 11:56
Completely agree. And I think another thing that that ties into is just the focus on diversity and inclusivity. Like the broader focus on that. And that applies to a lot of populations, including individuals with hearing loss, and I really like I feel like we’re already starting to see more students with hearing loss, it’s hard for me to say if there are actually more or if it’s because you’ve created this space, where now we know that there are students with hearing loss, and they have you all excuse me have a community?

Audrey Taylor 12:25
God, no, absolutely, we have done some questions on the AAA membership. And I want to say like a 10th of students now have hearing loss that are going into all the different programs across the US. And you know, even just having our students with hearing loss networking event at AAA every year, I want to we have about 30 to 40 students, and those are just the ones that can come to the conferences, and we’re I mean, we’re just being 20 to 30 different university every year, we so it’s a very big diverse group that we’re starting to see more and more of,

Ashley Hughes 12:58
for sure. So I’ll just ask you one more question. Before we wrap up for today. Do you feel like the journey was worth it? And I’ll just also add in one little thing is, is there anything else you want to share with us that you think we should know as your listeners? Um,

Audrey Taylor 13:13
I definitely think the journey was worth it. I think even if you’re an audiologist with normal hearing, I think knowing what resources are out there for your your patients who may want to get into this field and setting them up. You know, from the get go with that. I honestly never thought I’d be an audiologist. But God has a sense of humor. And so here I am, and it’s been a wonderful journey with highs and lows. But you know, I even met my husband out of it. So we’re both audiologists, I never thought I’d meet him in grad school. But, you know, this is my profession. But this is also what I do for volunteering. And I’m just so grateful for all the relationships that I’ve met along the way,

Ashley Hughes 13:53
completely agree outside of the fact that my husband is not an audiologist, it’s the community is so small that it starts out as a professional relationship. And quickly these relationships change to be some of your closest friends. I’m glad that you feel the journey was worth it because I am definitely happy that you’re a part of our profession. And I’m so excited to see you continue to influence it and show your patients what they can achieve and things like that. So thank you again, Audrey, for joining us. And make sure to tune in next week for This Week in Hearing.

Audrey Taylor 14:25
Thanks for having me

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About the Panel

Ashley Hughes, Au.D. earned her doctorate of audiology from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014. She works as an audiologist with Interacoustics US, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Prior to joining Interacoustics, Dr. Hughes first worked clinically and then as a research audiologist for a hearing aid manufacturer. She has served as an invited speaker at state and national conferences and is an author on multiple published articles and posters. She is highly involved in the American Academy of Audiology, along with her state audiology organization, the Minnesota Academy of Audiology.


Audrey Taylor, AuD, is a board-certified audiologist, she received her BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Baylor University and her doctoral degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Taylor is a member of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the Texas Academy of Audiology (TAA) and currently serves as an advisor for the Student Academy of Audiology, a member of the AAA New Professionals Committee, and a member of the TAA Membership Committee. Her primary interests include pediatric diagnostics and aural rehabilitation, cochlear implants, and advocating for individuals with hearing loss.

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